Questions About Lead Came ?

by Amber
(Midland, MI)

I want to learn to work with came. I would like to know if came melts as easily as solder, if I can patina the lead came and/or how to make it a shiny silver or a copper color if I so choose. I went to a local store and was disappointed when they explained that I would need to electroplate the came to get it shiny silver and they had no idea where that could be done. Needless to say, I did not ask about getting it copper colored. Is there another way? I read your tutorial on lead came (thank you) but was a bit confused about the rest of the piece. If the joints are fluxed and soldered, leaving those areas a shiny silver, do you just leave the rest of the came the dull gray color? Could I flux and solder along the entire U of the came to get the silvery shine? Could I then patina the entire piece with good results? If not, what would you recommend?


Answer
Hi Amber,

Q: I would like to know if came melts as easily as solder.

A: Lead melts at a slightly higher temperature than solder
Lead came melts at 621°
60/40 solder melts at 370°
50/50 solder melts at 456°
Lead free solder melts at 430°
63/37 solder melts at 361°


Thin, fine lead melts a lot quicker than the wider, thicker leads. For instance, U came that is called Hobby U, that some people use around suncatchers, melts almost as fast as solder. 1/4" lead, which is pretty common for window construction, takes longer to melt, so you have a chance to get a nice looking solder joint without too much worry about melting the lead. Soldering lead takes practice, but it is no more difficult than learning to run a bead on copper foil. Don't let it frighten you. All of my students learn about the lead technique and how to solder lead before they learn about copper foil.

Most soldering irons have a built in temperature controller, and the tip for the iron is what determines the temperature. Use a 60 watt tip when you start soldering lead came. You will eventually use the 80 watt tip the comes as standard with most irons. Don't use a separate temperature controller with those irons. It can cause all sorts of soldering iron problems. I know that Weller, Hakko and Inland all make irons with temp controlls built into specific models.

Q: Can I patina the lead came and/or how to make it a shiny silver or a copper color if I so choose? Could I flux and solder along the entire U of the came to get the silvery shine?

A: The only way you'll get the lead shiny is by waxing it and then giving it a good polish. Even then it won't be silver, just shiny lead color. Yes, electroplating is the only way to do it. Tinning the lead would not work as you would be melting the lead in the process. If you were lucky enough not to melt it, the solder would not be smooth and even since you would have to work quickly to prevent melting the lead.

If you're working in copper foil (and I'm assuming you are) and only want a metal frame, use zinc instead of lead. You can tin the zinc. It won't melt, and you can work the solder until it's smooth. Then it will take patina the same as the rest of your panel.

Lead Plate by Novacan is a copper patina for lead came. It leaves an antique copper finish. I have no idea what the lead looks like after using it. Obviously it is an antique look rather than the bright shiny look of copper patina for solder. Classique makes an antique brass patina for solder that gives a beautiful color to solder. Perhaps that would be a close color for the solder if you decided to use the Lead Plate for the lead came.

Q: If the joints are fluxed and soldered, leaving those areas a shiny silver, do you just leave the rest of the came the dull gray color?

A: It sounds like you and I feel the same way about bright shiny solder joints. I don't like them either. You can touch them up with black patina for solder and wipe it off right away. That will dull down the shiny solder joints. You can also brush the lead and solder joints with a natural bristle brush. The more you brush, the darker the lead and solder will get. If the solder joints don't darken down enough, touch them up with black patina.

Another alternative to patina is paint. I've never used it, but some people actually paint the lead, zinc and/or solder. Apparently an outdoor paint for metal works well.

I hope this helps.

Comments for Questions About Lead Came ?

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 14, 2008
Lead Came
by: Valerie

Great answers to the questions about lead came.

I get certain leaded "gifty" items either gold or nickel plated, and they also do copper and chrome. Not all platers will work with stained glass, and some platers want an order of 100 items before they will accept your work. I also know some people who have to send their things out of state to be done. Here in MN there are 2 platers I have used; one is about 60 miles away, the other 90. So when I go, I bring a big batch. I have friends who will never have things plated; they think it makes items look like they are imports.

When working with lead, I have used a Pzaz Luster Brush attached to a drill to get a beautiful deep dark luster finish, which looks terrific on most panels.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Lead Came Questions.

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Stained Glass Gems.